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Coming Out

NBA’s Jason Collins: ‘I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.’

First active male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out
Monday, April 29, 2013

NEW YORK — NBA veteran center Jason Collins has become the first active male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay.

Collins wrote a first-person account posted Monday on Sports Illustrated’s website. The 34-year-old Collins has played for six NBA teams in 12 seasons. He finished this past season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to continue playing.

Collins writes:

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.

[...]

Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.

[...]

I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy.

I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride.

I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”

Read Collins’ complete essay at Sports Illustrated

Collins said he quietly made a statement for gay rights even while keeping his sexual orientation a secret. He wore No. 98 with the Celtics and Wizards – 1998 was year that Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming, was killed, and the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization, was founded.

He wrote that the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15 “reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”

And now, he says, he will be in Boston on June 8, marching alongside Kennedy at the city’s 2013 gay rights parade.

His twin brother, Jarron, was also a longtime NBA center. Jason said he came out to his brother last summer.

“He’s my brother, he’s a great guy, and I want him to be happy. I’ll love him and I’ll support him and, if necessary, I’ll protect him,” Jarron wrote, in his own Sports Illustrated essay.

Update: The White House on Monday joined the chorus of praise by commending Collins for becoming the first active male player in the four major American professional sports to come out as gay. More here

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24 more reader comments:

  1. Thank you, Jason!

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:30am
  2. I posted this twice already, from different sources.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:34am
  3. Its abt damned time someone rose their hand! Cant pretend to understand, just glad it finally happened!

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:35am
  4. HOLY CRAP!!!! : ) You go boy!!!!

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:35am
  5. Something about the article title bothers me: “The Gay Athlete” I can’t quite place what it is that bothers me though.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:38am
  6. Could this be as epic as Jackie Robinson signing with the Dodgers? What a brave man and who knows how many lives he’s touched with his heart.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:44am
  7. Agree. Why use the word gay? He’s an athlete, no description necessary. Glad he came out though, he will help others.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:49am
  8. WTF Barbara? They say gay because it’s his first person coming out story. You’re suggesting an article titled “The Athlete” on the cover of S.I.??? Yeah, right. Why do people have a problem identifying someone as gay? Some of us are proud to say it, why suggest hiding that fact? Let’s quit being so self-loathing!

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:50am
  9. i appreciate that sports illustrated is doing an article on him, but what a horrible title; no one would say, ‘The Straight Athlete!’

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:51am
  10. Thank you for shattering the misconception that gay men can’t be athletes

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:54am
  11. This is a major first! Is this the extent of our cultural and social commentary, to complain about the title? Why is our community so fucking bitchy all the time? PS: Congrats Jason on having the courage to be the first!

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:55am
  12. Of course they’re going to use the word “gay” to describe him because nobody marginalizes straight athletes. I’m disappointed in some of these short-sighted comments, but I’m very pleased with Collins’ decision to come out. While it’s true that one’s character should be all that matters, we’re not quite there yet. This helps!!

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:57am
  13. It’s important to use the word GAY to dispel the phobias that are traditionally associated within the sports world! Like Jackie Robinson, he is a game changer for Gay people. And, he deserves KUDOS for doing so in this manner.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:58am
  14. Jason! As a gay man, I am so proud and rewarded by your personal statement of courage, strength and leadership. You have no idea how powerful your statement will be for so many people around the globe! In the image of the great Jackie Robinson, you are breaking through barriers that history has been waiting a long time for you!

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:58am
  15. Proud of you Jason.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:59am
  16. I’m sure that what he did took a lot of courage, but it seems like the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Awesome! B|

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 10:20am
  17. “Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community,” he said in a statement. “It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities.

    “For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.” – Bill Clinton

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 10:21am
  18. this is so big! First Pro Athlete to come out! love seeing the change!

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 10:22am
  19. Now there’s someone I could look up to

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 10:28am
  20. He’s no Jackie Robinson necessarily, but the impact of this shouldn’t be understated. What he’s doing is HUGE, and very important. I applaud him, it took great courage and he could have easily remained silent. Hopefully this will inspire others to be who they are. There will be some initial discomfort with some players unfamiliar with how to handle this, seeing as some straight males aren’t even comfortable with being friends with gay males. But it’s a 1st and important step. If not now, then when?

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 10:38am
  21. Bravo!

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 12:08pm
  22. I guess it implies there is only one ‘gay’ athlete like he is an exception. It seems more limiting and not embracing or welcoming.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 12:44pm
  23. It isn’t the use of ‘gay’ that bothers me.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 12:45pm
  24. I am officially no longer a fan of mr. Collins. He likes his butthole annihilated by penis? I’m sorry, but am I the only one who finds this a bit taboo?

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 3:36pm